How To Visit Canada (It’s Open To Vaccinated Americans!) – My Experience
Now that vaccinated Americans can enter Canada, you may be wondering how to visit Canada under the new rules. My wife and I entered the country earlier this week. Wondering what’s involved? Thinking about visiting our neighbor to the north? Here’s my experience flying into Canada. I’ll cover pre-arrival requirements, what happened on arrival at the airport, and things you need to know to make the process smooth.
Canada Open To Vaccinated Americans
Starting August 9th, Canada began accepting vaccinated Americans for leisure travel. Their border remains closed to large amounts of foreigners, including non-vaccinated visitors from the U.S. who have no ‘need to enter’. The border is also closed to vaccinated visitors from many countries, as well.
Can I Enter Canada?
The first part of understanding how to visit Canada right now is that vaccinated Americans CAN visit. Unvaccinated Americans and even vaccinated people from many other countries CANNOT visit. Luckily, the Canadian government has a “Can I enter Canada?” website that is super easy to use. Just answer some multiple-choice questions and get an answer. Questions include where you live, where you’re arriving from, vaccination status, and information about your travel group.
If you get a “you should be allowed”, you can visit Canada. Obviously, the final decision is made by the border police on your arrival.
Before arrival in Canada, there are several requirements:
- Pre-flight Covid testing. Note that “rapid” and “antigen” test types are not acceptable. They have a list of acceptable test types here.
- ArriveCAN information. There’s an app and a website for ArriveCAN. Use these to submit pre-flight information, such as proof of vaccination and questions about your travel plans. They will ask questions about your quarantine plan, which is required. While you are not required to quarantine if granted exemption as a vaccinated American traveling to the U.S., you must still make a plan and provide info on it.
Additionally, there is randomized Covid testing on arrival. Because of this, they recommend that you check which company is doing the tests at the airport where you’ll arrive. Then, set up an account with them in advance. If selected for testing, this will make the process much faster for you at the airport.
Why Do You Need A Quarantine Plan If You Are Exempt?
Because of the randomized testing, you could potentially test positive on arrival. Or if you don’t bring some of the required documents, you could be required to quarantine.
Even if you have all of the documents required and should be exempt from quarantine, there are 2 reasons you could be required to quarantine anyway:
- Testing positive on arrival at the airport (randomly selected for testing or you show symptoms and must take a Covid test)
- Not filling out info in ArriveCAN with your proof of vaccination in advance (must be at least 2 weeks since you completed vaccination, must submit proof, etc.)
That means that even if you SHOULD qualify for exemption but you don’t provide proof of it in ArriveCAN, you won’t be exempt. You will have to quarantine.
Luckily, 3 separate checks to make sure we had ArriveCAN receipts happened before our flight.
Mandatory Documents To Bring
The government website tells you to bring your ArriveCAN receipt (either in the phone app or printed), proof of vaccination (digital or printed), and documents to show your plans in Canada. I only had the latter in my phone but had the first 2 in paper copies. I also took screen shots of everything and saved them in my phone & laptop, just in case.
Experience Flying To Canada
At present, only certain airports are receiving international arrivals in Canada. We were in Cabo, Mexico and wanted to go to Calgary. Calgary isn’t one of the designated airports, so we had to fly through Vancouver.
Yes, I said that we flew from Mexico to Canada. Remember that U.S. citizens must enter directly from the U.S. to get exemption? That still applies if you have a connection in the U.S. while starting in another country. Multiple passengers on our flight started their day in Mexico and ended in Canada, still getting exemption from quarantine. The “Can I enter Canada?” questions mentioned above will confirm this, if you’re unsure.
We flew on United from Mexico to LAX and continued with Air Canda to Vancouver. Before boarding our flight in Mexico, we showed all of our paperwork. Before boarding from LAX to Vancouver, we showed it again. They checked ArriveCAN to ensure our receipt numbers were valid. Gate agents also checked our proof of vaccination & PCR test forms. They were very thorough on checking dates (2+ weeks prior for the final dose), which vaccine you received (must be accepted types), and that names/birth dates/etc. were clearly indicated on all forms.
Our flight actually left LAX late, because people did not go to the “document check” station before trying to board. We had to wait for them to complete this process.
Experience On Arrival In Canada
As Vancouver is the only airport open to international arrivals in the whole western half of Canada, we thought it would be busy. It was a ghost town!
Vancouver airport has automated machines similar to the U.S. where you answer questions about length of stay, scan your passport, and take a picture of your face. Next, take this and all of your documents to the passport control line.
Agents reminded everyone over and over again to have ALL of your documents ready. This must be an issue. Remember you need to show your vaccination proof, the receipt from the border arrival machine, Covid test papers, and your ArriveCAN receipt. Other than the receipt from the machine you just visited, you can show all of the other documents digitally.
At the passport control desk, a friendly agent asked why we were visiting, questions about our trip, and if we had any symptoms of Covid. While thorough, it wasn’t burdensome or designed to trick you/make you feel guilty like U.S. and U.K. passport control agents.
The agent confirmed that we were exempt from quarantine and sent us on our way. If you are exempt from quarantine, you can continue on to any other part of Canada immediately—domestic flight, car rental, going to a hotel, etc. She gave us a document about ongoing expectations and requirements. She didn’t stamp our passports.
Leaving The Airport
After claiming our bags, we passed another group of border control agents. They looked at our receipts from the kiosks on arrival. Something on those forms tells them which line to send people to. They will tell you which door to exit (they have letters on them).
Only after going through the indicated door will you know if you’re getting tested on arrival or not. In Vancouver, the doors you go through don’t have windows, so it was a surprise. Luckily, we weren’t selected for random testing and were exempted from quarantine. We exited the airport and went to our hotel.
You must keep the arrival receipts and all documents used for exemption from quarantine for 14 days after entering Canada.
A Note About On-Arrival Testing / Random Selection
I want to point out that “quarantine exempt” visitors who are selected for testing on arrival don’t have to wait around for the test results. You can still go forward with your plans while waiting for the test results. Other people who are randomly selected will receive at-home test kits. You do this via video chat, similar to our write-up here.
Final Thoughts On How To Visit Canada As A Vaccinated American
This is my first time in Canada in many years. Now that the border is open and vaccinated Americans can travel to Canada, I assume that others are considering a visit. This is my experience visiting Canada and arriving in Vancouver. Processes arriving at other airports should be similar but will have small differences, of course. The documents required and pre-arrival process will not change, no matter which airport you fly to. The key takeaway is to check what documents are required and to make sure you submit all of that in ArriveCAN. Even if you should qualify for skipping quarantine, you won’t be exempt if you don’t submit the needed documents in ArriveCAN before your flight. It seems that multiple pre-flight checks are designed to avoid this happening to anyone.